Background: Immune reconstitution following the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapies (HAART) has lead to a remarkable reduction in the incidence of opportunistic infections (OI) in subjects with advanced HIV disease. Moreover, discontinuation of primary prophylaxis for some OI can be attempted without risk in patients experiencing a favourable response to treatment. However, data on the feasibility of discontinuing secondary prophylaxis are much more scarce, and restricted mainly to the withdrawal of maintenance treatment for cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis.
Patients and methods: Retrospective review of the clinical outcome at 18 months in HIV-infected patients in whom discontinuation of secondary prophylaxis, for different OI, was recommended 3 months after the introduction of HAART, if both CD4 counts > 100 x 10(6) CD4 lymphocytes/l and plasma HIV-RNA < 500 copies/ml had been achieved.
Results: Fifty-three subjects were analysed. Secondary chemoprophylaxis was discontinued for the following OI: Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) (n = 29), cerebral toxoplasmosis (n = 9), disseminated Mycobacterium avium complex infection (n = 7), CMV retinitis (n = 5), recurrent oroesophageal candidiasis (n = 5), Visceral leishmaniasis (n = 2), recurrent herpes zoster (n = 2), and chronic mucocutaneous herpes simplex infection (n = 1). In six individuals, OI prophylaxis was discontinued for two or more entities. Only two episodes of OI were recorded in these individuals during 18 months of follow-up. One developed tuberculous lymphadenitis despite having a good response to treatment, and another suffered a new episode of PCP after voluntary treatment interruption for 6 weeks.
Conclusion: Secondary prophylaxis for OI can be attempted without major risk in HIV-infected patients experiencing a favourable response to HAART. The benefit of this intervention should reduce costs, drug side-effects and pharmacologic interactions, and indirectly will improve patient's quality of life and adherence to antiretroviral treatment.